A trip to Canada was on my agenda since long. I wasn't very optimistic about finding good vegetarian options. I was in for a pleasant surprise when I stumbled upon the Commensal. This restaurant not only serves an astonishingly wide range of vegetarian options, it also ensures that the food is cooked in a healthy fashion, and remains light and easy on the stomach. The Commensal has in fact been serving quality vegetarian food since 1977, way before it became fashionable to be a vegetarian in the West! My companions and I were happy to find that the restaurant offered a buffet style vegetarian meal that seemed to be tailored to pleasing the fussiest eater. The spread was amazing. Soups such as Dahl or Cream of Carrot, served with a variety of bread and flavoured butter were an indication of the fine meal that was to follow. The emphasis here is on the healthy eating, so undoubtedly the salads have to measure up. The selection of these crunchy creative salads would range from Beet and Apple to smooth Chickpea and Mint salad. I experimented with dressings such as homemade garlic, tamari and raspberry, and the resulting burst of flavours was memorable. We then moved on to the main course. For the unadventurous there is a choice of pizzas and burritos; while others can experiment with more exotic dishes like Tofu Madras Curry or the Sweet Potato Puree with Basmati Rice. The best part of the meals was the desserts, a colourful selection of fresh fruit and goodies like Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, Walnut and Coconut Squares and the Pineapple and Tapioca Mousse. Feeling twinges of guilt as we tucked in, we reminded ourselves that fat free feasting was what The Commensal was all about, and suddenly the desserts tasted even better!
At the Commensal the price is calculated by weight. We realised later that a clever customer was one who stocked up on the lighter foods instead of the heavier ones! In an informal chat with the management, we discovered that innovation was the key to success. While they try to serve a gourmet meal, they also ensure that it is healthy and beneficial. For pure vegetarians eating at The Commensal can be culinary highlight of a Canadian holiday!
Sinhalese cuisine will be very appealing to the Indian palette, though it has Portuguese, Dutch, English and even some Arabic influences. Sinhalese cuisine is native to the Sinhalese, who make up for the three fourth of the population in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese cuisine is very spicy. Rice forms the staple and is eaten at least once a day along with hot curry. Spices are the most important element of the cuisine, with Sinhalese using as many as 42 different spices in their cooking. Sinhalese cooking is finely linked to Ayurveda and the balance of the basic five elements of air, fire, water earth and ether. Rice is the most integral part of Sinhalese cuisine and the people do not know what to do with wheat. A typical Sinhalese meal would consist of boiled or steamed rice and a variety of curries, salads, sambols, pappadam and chutney. Yellow rice, cooked in coconut milk and garnished with cashews, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs, is reserved for special occasions. Kiribath or milk rice cooked in thick coconut cream is also served on special occasions, accompanied by chilli relish called lunumiris or panipol, made with grated jaggery and coconut. Also known as 'rice pullers', sambols are spicy accompaniments made from ingredients such as coconut, onion, bitter gourd, and salted lime. Curries are either 'red' and spicy, or 'black' and flavoured with ground roasted whole spices such as coriander, cumin and fennel. 'Brown' curries are made from un-roasted spices, while mild 'white' curries contain plenty of coconut milk and very little chilli. A very common thing found in most Sinhalese meals is Mallung, a Sinhalese for mix up and is just that leafy vegetables finely chopped and mixed over heat with a traditional blend of spices. Yet another ingredient very widely used in the Sinhalese cuisine is tapioca. Dessert is usually a cup of curd or jaggery-based dishes like wattalappam. A wide variety of tropical fruit is available and most people end their meals with a selection of papaya, pineapple, mangoes, passion fruit, bananas or the more exotic mangosteen, rambutan, or sapodilla.
A few believe that the Sinhalese cuisine is much more exotic than the Thai food.